With ten nominees for Best Picture, the Academy Awards are more competitive than ever. There’s bound to be a winner, though; despite the high quality of all ten films, some are simply better than others. From best to worst, of all of 2010’s best films, here they are:
1) “The King’s Speech” is a perfect movie. Detailing King George VI’s struggles to overcome his speech impediment by working with speech therapist Lionel Logue, it is one of the most moving, compelling stories ever told on screen. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are mesmerizing as the King and his therapist, volleying screenwriter David Seidler’s wise words back and forth like two Wimbledon champions. The rest of the cast, including Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, and the iconic Claire Bloom as the Queen Mother, are simply superb. Director Tom Hooper has crafted a masterwork about friendship and courage on the grand stage.
2) “The Social Network”. Aaron Sorkin’s savvy script, featuring his trademark cackling dialogue, was brought beautifully to fruition by David Fincher. Fluidly directed, with fine performances by Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, and Rooney Mara, The Social Network chronicles the founding of Facebook.com and the intrigue that accompanied its inception. It’s a great yarn, told with wicked suspense, but for all its intelligence The Social Network lacks dramatic tension, and the ending is strangely unsatisfying. Considering what has become of the real Mark Zuckerberg, it needed more closure.
3) “True Grit”. The Coen Brothers have abandoned the strangeness of their two earlier projects No Country for Old Men and A Serious Man to craft an adventure in the pure, classic Hollywood tradition. Jeff Bridges reprises John Wayne’s role as Rooster Cogburn, who’s hired by teenager Mattie Ross (an intelligent and spunky Hailee Steinfeld) to avenge the death of her father. Take “The Dude” over “The Duke” any day; also with Matt Damon.
4) “The Fighter”. One might have thought that there’d been enough movies about fighters, with “Rocky” and “Raging Bull”. This film isn’t quite as good as those other two, but it’s still a riveting and satisfying drama about a fighter (Mark Wahlberg) and the team determined to train him to boxing glory. Christian Bale and Melissa Leo are astounding in supporting performances, and their heartfelt turns are the reason for the movie’s high ranking on this list.
5) “The Kids Are All Right”. Annette Benning and Julianne Moore are a lesbian couple whose lives are upended when their two children (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) contact their sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo, wonderful as always). Director Lisa Cholodenko’s serio-comic, engaging story is unique in that it doesn’t dwell on any politics relating to gay or lesbian relationships. The film isn’t about “lesbianism”; it is, in fact, a demonstration that long standing relationships are challenging for everyone, and can survive with effort and care. The kids are all right, and so is the movie.
6) “Black Swan”. Darren Aaronofski’s previous works “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream” promised that he wasn’t going to be directing the next Disney picture. In retrospect, we should have suspected that he’d direct a searing portrait of a ballet dancer suffering from schizophrenia. The movie is clotted with unnecessarily brutal and gross imagery, and is unremittingly savage; yet, Natalie Portman’s performance as Nina is electric: a captivating mixture of vulnerability and intensity.
7) “127 Hours”. This movie is a survivalist’s story, but what a story! It is intense and horrifying, all the more so because of James Franco’s charisma and likeability as Aron Ralston, a hiker forced to resort to extreme measures in order to live. It doesn’t have the social or emotional relevance of some other nominees, but it’s a thrilling film, nonetheless. Directed by Danny Boyle, based on an all-too-true story.
8) “Winter’s Bone”. Detailing an independent girl’s fervent search for her father, who’s put up the house as bail money, Winter’s Bone is an especially dark, harrowing film, grounded by a driven performance from Jennifer Lawrence. By establishing Ree Dolly as a driven personality right from the get-go, however, the movie pigeonholes itself from a dramatic perspective and the character has no room to grow and develop. The other seven best picture nominees are superior. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, it has no chance to win Best Picture at the Oscars.
9) “Toy Story 3”. The final installment in the Toy Story trilogy has a lot of laughs, and some innovative scenes as Woody and Buzz are relocated to a Daycare center. The highlight of the film is undoubtedly the ‘Spanish Buzz Lightyear’. There are many other funny moments, but the movie doesn’t earn its overly sentimental end.
10) “Inception”. Christopher Nolan’s movie about dreams is a futuristic thriller involving corporate espionage, carried out by dream-entering-thieves. The special effects are extraordinary, and there are some interesting philosophical insights about dreams. However, the intense confusion and ambiguity involving the story (was it a dream or wasn’t it?) and the phoned-in acting of DiCaprio, puts it at the bottom of the list.